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Book TV After Words

Kim Ghattas Education. (2013) 'The Secretary A Journey With Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power.'

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America 38, United States 23, Clinton 22, U.s. 16, Us 13, Libya 9, Pakistan 8, Syria 7, Lebanon 5, Obama 4, Egypt 4, Benjamin Netanyahu 4, France 3, Benghazi 3, China 3, Bill Clinton 2, Cia 2, Washington 2, Paris 2, Afghanistan 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    Kim Ghattas  Education.  (2013) 'The Secretary A Journey  
   With Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American...  

    March 18, 2013
    12:00 - 1:00am EDT  

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shouldn't we take at least that much care with our kids and not be willing to say, let's continue to invest in this thing that has failed for generations and hope that some day it might get better. mean while our kids are not learning how to read and write and it makes absolutely no sense. >> ladies and gentlemen, now we have to cut it there with the question due to -- i'm sorry -- because michelle has to go on piers morgan and has kindly agreed to sign -- >> better questions than piers'. >> before we close it out, just want to make a couple of notes. firstly, i really like to thank a real, real old and dear friend for making this incredible event possible and that's leslie cohen. also, anybody that has any stake in education and if they want to get involved, it's completely up to them, students first.org it
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doing, according to many critics and others, all kinds of interesting work. most importantly, the book -- there's a lady that asked a question. she has two or throw books. the book has received incredible reviews. i you have any stake in education or education means anything to you personally, your kids, your family, the future of the country, they're pointing to many individuals, it's a must-read and i'd strongly recommend. so, in that note, please join in the thanking michelle rhee. [applause] >> up next, after words with guest host jamie weinstein. this week, kim ghattas and her book: the secretary, a journey with hillary clinton from beirut to the heart of american power."
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she conditions miss clinton's role, and whether u.s. power is in decline. the program is about an hour. >> where we should begin is to talk about your biography. i think as much as this book is about hillary clinton and her time as secretary of state, it's also about your experience from beirut to covering the secretary of state around the world. so, why don't you just begin by talking about where you came from. >> guest: great. thank you very much for having me. i'm delighted to be here and delighted by your first question. the star, the biggest star in the book is hillary clinton herself. but this isn't just a biography of an historic woman. it's also a different take on the whole issue of american power, and as you mention i come from beirut. i grew up there i was born in
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beirut in the middle of the civil tbhar 197- -- civil war in 1977 and i lived my whole life in lebanon, 13 years in war, and then the rest of the time, there was not exactly a stable country, so we've been through many, many ups and downs, and i lived through all of them. which gives you a very interesting take on the world, on america's position on the global stage, and the first sentence of my book is: i grew up in beirut. on the front lines of a civil war. and my father always said, if america wanted the conflict to end, it would be over tomorrow. so, it sort of frames the whole discussion about what is america? what can it do? how much power does it really have? and to try to find the balance between this illusion of how much power america actually has, and what is really happening on the ground. so, that kind of frames the
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discussion. but i lived in beirut my whole life. became a journalist there living through war is what drove me to become a journalist. i was always keen to understand the chaos around me, understand why i had to live through what i was living, alongside the other four million lebanese who were there. i covered the middle east extensively. syria, which unfortunately is going through its own terrible conflict. saudi arabia, iraq, and then i applied for a bbc job to cover the state department. i was their correspondent in beirut and writing for others as well, but doing more for the bbbc and i applied for the state department job, which is thought was an amazing opportunity for me to see another perspective on what i had been covering in the middle east. obviously i knew a lot about the u.s. been here on holiday. i have an american brother-in-law. but it just gives you a front-row seat to the other side of the story.
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>> host: you were the -- if i'm not mistaken -- the only nonamerican foreign correspondent in the traveling press corps for the state department? >> guest: that is correct. although my colleagues from route tiers may not point out they're not american but i'm nonwestern. i have a dutch mother but for all intents and purposes i'm very much an arab woman. i grew up there. i lived there my whole life and that's kind of what i bring to the table. although i have also a western perspective on in things because of my brand. my mother's nationality and the time i spent traveling in the west. yes, i was the only nonwestern, and specifically for the bbc, the first nonbritish person to cover this beat. >> host: one of the most interesting parts of the book is actually learning the process of being secretary of state, going from country to country. you kind of take there is -- take there is as hillary clinton traveled around the world. let's talk about process and ask you about that.
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when the book opens in the first chapter, after the introduction and you're with the traveling press corps, hillary clinton comes in for the first time and you mention the press is star-struck with her. do you think that affected the coverage in any way? that she was such a big figure, that they were trying to hold back a little bit? >> guest: i don't think so. i really don't. there was this moment when someone with her celebrity status walks into a room, and it applies to world leaders as well. it's not just us journalists. and of course, just to reassure the jurors, there was no clapping because there was a lot of clapping when she walked into the building for her first day on the job. there was this instant of being a little bit star-struck because she is hillary clinton. not all of us had ever met her in the past. so there's that first moment of, wow, hillary clinton is there.
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but then it's immediately followed by, okay, you know, what are the tough questions we want to ask her? and we didn't shy away from asking those questions throughout her tenure, both for myself when i interviewed her. we had some tough exchanges but always very fair and very much designed to broaden the conversation and further the understanding about the issues. and also a little bit of wariness on both sides. she has not had necessarily to put it lightly, great relationship with the media. so she was also wary of us. who was this new press group, how were they going to write their stories? we were wondering, how is this going to work? a political personality that arrives in a very wonkish world of diplomacy where every comma matters and it's all about the nuances. so it was a certain degree of wariness when she arrived because she brought with her a little bit of the hillaryland at
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the white house. >> host: i was intrigued by the fast pace of the trips. one day you're in islamabad, and the next day united arab emirates and you're constantly traveling. this book, constantly updated with where they're going and the information. but there is really little time to actually digest what you just did and where you're going next. even in the midst of one trip you mentioned in one instance, they're planning a trip to latin america in two weeks. is this good -- is it good be this fast-paced? should there be more time to tie jest what is going on? don't -- isn't this how mistakes are made? >> guest: let me first tell you what it was like to follow her. it is very fast paced and it's the nature of the world we live in you don't have the luxury to sit back and press pause and say, let me digest to what happened in syria behalf i turn
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my attention to pakistan. it's why i wanted to write the book. to sort of take a step back and digest everything i had seep, everything i had learned. i had learned a lot. being in this front row seat to history, to the diplomacy, watching all those different events unfold. and writing the book was a very maturing experience as well as i digested, as you say, some of what i had seen and try to kole to some of the conclusions i was trying too get at. but when it comes to the secretary of state and the people around here, i think that what i found striking is her ability to stay focused at all times as much as possible on what is happening. she doesn't get distracted by the details if they're not important, details often matter
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but she has an ability to stay focused on the big picture. how is what is happening in afghanistan impacting what they might be doing in the middle east? how is what is happening in the middle east impacting what they're trying to do in asia? i think she had good sense of the big picture, the strategy here, and she is surrounded with people who are helping her. i have to carry my own suitcase but she has staff and that allows her -- i talk about that -- allows her to stay focused. she doesn't have to worry about when her lunch will be served and when it arrives she'll have it. but of course i think mistakes do happen, and i think that's inevitable, but also important to acknowledge that, and that's part of what motivated know write the book. not just for an audience in the u.s. but an audience royal the world that have this impression that america is this all-knowing power that has the answers to everything and has all the facts and a foolproof plan for
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everything. doesn't work like that. america is run by fallible human beings. we don't have all the facts, don't always have the answers and are trying to do the best they can, and sometimes doesn't work out. >> i want to explore that later. the one of most interesting parts of the book is the question of america's role in the world. i think maybe we should turn to maybe some of the examples and some of the countries you traveled to no better place to start than beirut. traveled there early on and you did with the secretary of state. what was that like returning to beirut as part of an american delegation and the way -- you warrant part of the delegation bought you were in the convoys and used to watch and be annoyed when you were a child in beirut. what was that like? >> guest: it was very up -- unsettling. writing that chapter was the first time i really said very much about it. it was their first time i put into words how i felt about
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being there. as you mentioned, yes, growing up in beirut, there were often mixed feelings about the united states. whether for me or others in lebanon. i grew up in an environment where we did tend to look to the west for support, or help. but i have a lot of friends who grew up on the other side of the divide who don't see the u.s. the way my friends or my family do. but inevitably america is a superpower and it comes with sharp elbows sometimes and big motorcades and big force tresses as embassies and that can be a bit -- grating on the local population. so it was interesting or perhaps revealing for me to be on the other side all of a sudden. it's just a totally different prism through which to look at
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my open country. so i'm sitting there in the cop vow, and just a few cars ahead of me is another car in the same motorcade surrounded by security escorts, and there is the secretary of state, and there is jeffrey feldman, who is now assistant secretary of state who used to be ambassador to beirut, and it was his convoy that used to annoy people in beirut. used to annoy me when is was stuck at an intersection waiting for him to drive through. and i think it's always worth remembering that you have to try to look at things from other people's perspective if you want to understand what they're going through. whether it's as a lebanese, trying to understand what the u.s. is trying to do, to try to understand things from their perspective, or whether it's for americans like jeff feldman or hillary clinton to try to say, what does it look like if you're
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in pakistan? what does it feel like if you're living in beirut? on some level it was also quite emotional. i write about how i land in beirut and call my sister and she says, what does it mean for us? what is the plan? always this question. what's the plan? as though america has this piece of paper it drops on the table. then there's this moment that i sort of share with the sect. it's the first time she goes there never been to me country before, and she knows i'm lebanese, and at a press conference she mentioned that in public. and i could just sort of imagine what people might have been thinking across lebanon. might have been people cheering, my goodness, she recognized my friend and we're so proud of her 0, people not thinking about honor. the american secretary of state recognizes you in public like that so conflicting emotions that come with finding yourself on the other side. >> host: did you get any calls from family members or friends
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asking you -- kind of questioning you traveling with the delegation in any way? >> guest: well, obviously there was a security issue with traveling to beirut. beirut has a heavy history when it comes to its relationship with the united states, and i go into some details about that. an ambassador was killed in beirut during the war. a cia station chief was killed. the embassy was bombed the marine barracks were bombed in 1983. so there are many reason highs the u.s. feels wary about the security of its diplomats in the country. so we were under instructions not say anything to anyone about our arrival because we didn't want to compromise the secretary's security and our own, because we were traveling with her in the motorcade. so i wasn't able to tell anyone i was coming but the minute i landed i called my sister. my parents happened to be out of to the country, which was very
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disappointing. but my sister was there, and i called her. and i then clinton only spent four hours in beirut for that trip but i stayed behind. and obviously, yes, then everybody comes up to me and i have lunch and breakfast and dinner with friends because it's a very social environment in beirut. all about eating out with people. everybody is asking me, what are the americans doing about this or thinking about that? what does it mean? what is she going to do? and those are the questions that i used to ask myself about the united states, when i was in beirut. and what is fascinating for me to try to answer some of those questions with whatever it is that i did know. >> host: and one of the issues that always occupies any secretary of state, any administration, usually at the end but in this case at the beginning is the israeli palestinian conflict, president obama you mention in your book, his first call was -- as president was to abbas, the head
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of the palestinian authority. how did that get derailed? seems like it's no longer -- maybe it's going to become a front burner issue but for at least three years, the presidency went to the back burner. what happened there? >> guest: several things. it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the administration. you can sum it up by saying, expectations were raised way too high by the president, by the administration. there was a belief that perhaps there was a window of opportunity that could be used to advance the talks. but there was a misreading in the united states about what had changed on the ground in and are in the palestinian territories, and where each of the players was, netanyahu, and abbas. and there is often the sense that if you're the american president, you can make anything move, and then you bump against reality, and it's not enough to
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be -- the president changed. there is a certain reality on the ground. sometimes the personality of a president can help make things move along, but you have to remember that players on on the ground have their own agendas, their own domestic considerations, their own fears and concerns, about what they can give up on or not give up on. and then there was this moment when hillary clinton shows her loyalty to the president, and without giving too much to the readers about the plot -- revealing too much about the plot, there's a moment she shows loyalty and talks about the statement the president has made in a way that the players on the ground, the palestinians and israelis, feel they're stuck in a certain position and they have to unblock that. but the palestinians are thinking, well, we're not going to be more british than the british or more royal than the king. we're just going to wait for the
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americans to deliver what they said they would deliver. >> host: i think that's interesting. we're talking about the settle settlements here and the administration's position -- >> guest: right. >> host: freezing settlement whichs beyond what the palestine kwans are call for. >> guest: and beyond what the israelys were willing to give. >> host: once the president made that the issue, the palestinians couldn't be less annoyed than the president. but that was an example. it was interesting because it was an example where you said that hillary clinton disagreed with the president. >> guest: but she didn't voice that disagreement, at least not forcefully. the picked up on the vibe within the white house, showing netanyahu who was the boss, because remember, her husband, bill clinton, was in power in the 90s when benjamin netanyahu was primeman, and there -- prime minister, and there was a lot of frustration
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there which i used to explain the context in which people are operating. hillary clinton wasn't in the policymaking aspect of the white house back in the '9s but she remembers what the interactions were like. rahm emanuel is back. he was by bill clinton's side, certainly an adviser, and now he is there with president obama, and it sort of informs a little bit of the mood of needing to be bullish and needing to be strong when it comes to dealing with benjamin netanyahu, because everybody has been there before. i had american officials tell me benjamin netanyahu thinks he can wait this out until we leave, but we're going to be here longer than him. so we can just try to move the ball forward a little bit here and there until he is edged out of the political scene because that's just the nature of politics in israel. but benjamin netanyahu has just been re-elected.
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so there were a series of miscalculations. but i think that what i would like to remind people of is that there is a tendency in the arab world, and possibly around the world to always say, america is just wrong it's america's fault. america didn't deliver. i think to some extent there is absolutely truth to that. but i think that it's also important for people in the region, for people like me, for people in the arab world, to come to grips with their own responsibility about what they can do. obviously it's very difficult for the palestinians to feel like they have the upper hand because they're certainly in a very difficult position, and they're not the strongest party at the negotiating tableful but it doesn't help the issues to just blame everything on the united states, and that is something that is ingrained a lot of people's thinking.
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>> host: what fascinated me, it's just a jumping off point, this private disagreement between the president and hillary clinton on how to approach the conflict. to ask you, were there lots of disagreements you could tell between the president and the secretary of state on how to approach various situations around the world? what was her role as secretary of state and was she implementing policy from the white house? >> guest: let's go back to the israeli-palestinian discussion. i think she didn't necessarily voice her disagreement about the approach the administration was taking because it was in the first year of her tenure and all she wanted was to show loyalty. that is my reading of what was happening. so she may have thought, don't think this is the right way to go about it but she didn't necessarily voice that very forcefully. i'm not sure the was an open disagreement. and then it's an interesting
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aspect of the relationship between hillary clinton and barack obama, two former rivals who are learning to work together as president and secretary of state in the big picture, i think she did carry a lot of weight when it came to the decisionmaking. i think she was both an influencer and an implementer. she was one of the heavyweights at the table alongside bob gates in the first cabinet, or in the first term of president obama. she had a lot of experience, and she was a big player on the global stage. president obama knew when he was elected that he wasn't going to be able to travel around the world and make america's case on a daily basis because he would be's with the economy. so one of the many reasons why he chose her as secretary of state because she knew she could do that for him on a daily basis around the world. that's why i think that she would bring to him accurate
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reading of where things stood. what she could deliver to him in terms of moving forward in terms of agreement, where the players were when it comes to libya, for example. deliver to him the -- what was needed for him to make the decision. she lost some battles but she certainly influenced a lot of decision. libya being one of them, and asia definitely. >> host: we'll get to libya next. a very interesting scenario and what happened there. but just one last question on the israeli-palestinian conflict. i was covering aipac in 2010 and she spoke there and she said farflung destinations from the chronic where she would be traveling, that issue would come up as the first, second, or third issue, and it struck me as unlikely, other than europe, that people would be focusing on this far-flung destination, and once we saw wikileaks coming out
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and they wanted to cut off the head of the snake. did you got in they that the neighbors, that was one of the top issues of discussion that people wanted to talk to hillary clinton about? >> guest: it comes up often. and beyond those regions. if you're in pakistan, there are concerns that pakistan has, but america's relationship with israel does often come to the fore as a way for people in pakistan or afghanistan to explain what america's -- when it deals with international affairs. i think it's a conflict that grabs a lot of headlines. it's been intractable, it is ongoing. it does resonate around the world. although way down to africa and
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latin america, because it is one of those conflicts that is constantly in the headlines. i'm not sure whether every single world leader she met with wanted to speak about the arab-israeli conflict but i have no doubt doubt it came up very often. >> host: just struck me as one of the thing that might have led them to try to address the israeli-palestinian conflict, believing it was linked to so many other things. but moving on the arab spring. showed that other things that are going on that aren't focused on the conflict, and arab spring dominated a lot of her time as secretary of state. it happened suddenly. no one was anticipating it happening, at least at that moment. maybe they believed down the road stability would not be maintained with the dictatorships. what was it like to be covering the state department at the time of the arab spring and how is the state department handling all these things happening at once. >> guest: they were scrambling
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to keep up with the change. everybody was. the europeans, the russians, the chinese perhaps to a lesser extent. they're much fer their away and their own domestic concerns, but going back to the point i was making at the beginning, it was reminder that the superpower is run by human beings. we're people. what are we going to do? what are the long-term consequences, how should we handle this? what about mubarak. what happens if we say to mubarak, you have to good. what happens to our relationships with other countries in the region? the u.s. is often seen as a friend. if we tell mubarak he has to step down. what will the other countries think so. it's just a reminder of that. i think the arab spring -- the chapters around the arab spring are a perfect example of what this book is trying to do. it's trying to bring the reader
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into -- give the reader a front seat row to diplomacy in action. it's a great way to travel around the world, sitting in your chair, getting a history lesson on international affairs, and learning how to connect the dots, learning how one crisis affects another, another region. how what happens in far-flung areas affects people in the united states, and it's -- i try to do it in an accessible way that makes its engaging for people sitting in florida or oregon who are not quite sure why they should care about the arab world. >> host: it's an interesting topic, a jumping off point for the discussion of american power, because for all this talk of american decline, you write in the book that no matter how maybe some people in the region didn't see america as always a benevolent force in the midst of
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these resolutions no one was calling out to china for recognition. they were still calling out for america in some way or another. >> guest: they are, and when america doesn't respond people get very upset. more so than if china does not respond. there's still a feeling within the arab world and other regions, i think as well, that no matter its faults the u.s. should stand up for democracy, human rights, et cetera. so whatever the history of the united states, whatever the interests it has to pursue, that is the expectation. >> host: you write it's almost like a catch-22. one official says, if we intervene, they say we are immediateling. with we stay back they say, why aren't you standing up for human rights? so we're always on some side of criticism. >> guest: that's the fate of a superpower. it is a catch-22. people want you to deliver for
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them, but they don't necessarily want to give you what it takes to deliver for others, so it's all about your own interests, and i do quote this official who says, we're kind of damned if we do, damned if we don't. the pendulum swings constantly. it's cyclical thing. look at syria now. people are very upset in syria and in the region and here in the u.s. you listen to senator john mccain that the u.s. is not doing something. there was perhaps as much upset when the u.s. decided to go to war in iraq. now there's upset because of inaction, and under the bush administration there was upset because of action. so, it's a struggle to find that fine line. >> host: i think break time. >> guest: great. >> host: then there was libya. which could arguably be a
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success. some people say a distraction or whatnot but certainly a place where hillary clinton played a pivotal role. she travels to france, as you document in your book, and she basically wants to make sure that other people are going to contribute before -- doesn't seem like she is giving hints the obama administration is going act but she wants to make sure that other people will act with the united states if there's action. so, explain what she is doing in france. >> guest: first, let me give you the context of the trip. i it was one of the most insane trips i have been on. everything was on the move. it felt like the world was ending. you had the earthquake in japan with the tsunami there and the nuclear crisis. you had a crisis with pakistan where the contractor roman davis was detained. you had the revolution that was just ending in egypt, hosni
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mubarak had just stepped down. tunisia had already happened. the revolution was ongoing, the uprising was ongoing in libya. siras -- syria was just erupting and you had a couple thousand saudi and iraqi troops marching into bahrain to dwell -- quell the unrest there, all of this happening when we are on a flight to pair express the u.s. is coming under intense pressure to do something about libya. where moammar gadhafi was threatening to level the city of benghazi. so, that takes you back to one of the first questions you asked about, you know, it's all fast-moving, and how do you make sure you're not making any mistakes? jo don't have the luxury to stop. you just have to handle it all at the same time. and that's just one tiny little
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window into how dynamic it is to address all of those challenges. so, hillary clinton goes to paris, to try to assess where everybody is on the issue of libya. because this administration is not going to get involved in any sort of military intervention unilaterally. there is no repeat of that for this administration. and they don't want to be leading the charge and then find out that everybody is standing way back in the back and criticizing them for having gob forward. -- gone forward. so they're keeping their cards very close to their chest, and hillary clinton is lining up her ducks or going through her checklift. what does the u.s. need to make the decision to go for intervention? and she goes about very methodically lining all that up. she speaks to the brits and the french, to figure out exactly what they are going to
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contribute or not, if they understand what it entails. she explains a no-fly zone is not actually enough. you need to do more. the arab league has just called for a no-fly zone, so they are on board, and that kind of moves the needle on the decisionmaking for the united states. and then crucially, she meets with the libyan opposition leader to size up, who is this man? what can he bring? what will he deliver? who are we doing business with. and it's when she gathers all those elements that she makes the call and decided it's time to tip the balance in favor of intervention, and that's very often how she operates as far as i can tell in conversations with the president. she gathers everything she needs to make her case, and then she does it by making that case to the president and then in essence almost leading him to the natural conclusion of what is the next step to take. >> host: i think within this scene we see, as the famous
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official line, this is leading from behind, traditionally you imagine america would make a decision, this is in america's national interest. we're going to gather a coalition and compel people or argue people to join us but if they don't join us, we're going to do it. but what we see, i think, through your example, is that she is first trying to make sure people are going to do something and if they're going to do something, then we'll consider doing it. she is not saying that this is what we need to do. this is in america's national interests. she is first waiting for other people to commit to the united states before -- and i see this as in a real way a very different way than we have seen in past administrations in america acting. >> guest: it's actually not that different from the coalition put together by bush, sr. for the first gulf war. that was also a collaborative effort. the united states was leading, perhaps more open live and vocally, but certainly wanted to
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make sure that everybody was on board, and it wanted a broad coalition. and what hillary clinton and president obama do with libya, it's all really in our national interest at this stage to get involved in this, but it matters to our european partners and the arab world is asking us to help in. in a way that sounds as though they're willing to put their money with the mouth is. she also talks to the iraqis and the other countries and ascertain they'll participate militarily. that's the danger. the united states leads the charge. the arabs don't participate mill tear he and then criticize the u.s. for getting into a war in another muslim country. so it was about making sure the perception of what was happening was accurate. do you want to call it leading from indy it's certainly not
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leading from the front but i'm not sure it's the right characterization. it's a more collaborative approach and bringing people on board. >> host: do you think the united states would have gone into libya had france and the arab league not been pushing for and it promising -- >> guest: possibly not. possibly not. the french were absolutely adamant they wanted to go ahead with this. and i think that was part of the -- one of the factors that shaped the conversation when people were debating this within the administration. clinton tells the president, look, the french are going ahead with this, with us or without us, and we may as well get in there and shape this to look like something we can work with. there's no point having just a no-fly zone if we are doing a no-fly zone for ten years. what's the night you need to
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actually have a result. and that is where the discussion comes in about including the words aall necessary measures to protect civilians." but the final resolution that is vote on at the u. inch, as we're flying back to the u.s. on the trip that we were discussing, we wasn't to pair paris, egypt, and then tuneis, and it's in the course of those four days that decision is made so the conversation was very much, you know, the french are going to go ahead. we can let them do what they want or try to ship this into something that is going to deliver for people. >> host: i think my favorite chapter in the book is the trip to burma. perhaps might be most historical. >> guest: i love that chapter. >> host: just talk about what made that trip so unique. obviously not very men people are traveling to burma at that time. >> guest: it was very novel.
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it was a very special moment, and it goes back to when you look at the big picture of what my book will do for readers, this is a book that is several things. it is my personal story, my perspective on american powers. it is the story of hillary clinton as secretary of state and her approach to the american leadership and the concept of smart passion which we can talk about later. how do d-smart power, how do you do business as a global leader in a challenging world. it's also a portrait of the woman. this historic figure in the united states, politician, like her or -- whether you like or her don't like her, she is -- she has a global stature. she is a celebrity. a big personality. and she has been in the public eye for several decades. but i think that readers will
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discover things about her they didn't know and see her in a different light. and i think that chapter in burma achieves part of that as well, where you see her as a woman who is meeting another historic figure, chi suu kyi, to amazing women both for very different reasons who come face-to-face, never met before, and it's quite emotional and historic because of who these two women are. and in a way, again, whatever you think of hillary clinton, i think everybody can agree on the fact that she is a global figure, with an important stature on the global stage. she probably rarely meets women or people in general who are on that same historic level as
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hers. and i write in the book about how it's almost this moment of recognition, and for aung san suu kyi as well. it's not every day she has the opportunity because she has been under house arrest and in burma are so to long he has the opportunity to meet world figures like that. so, it was that moment that made the trip very special, and that's why i agree with you, it's a great chapter. but it's also to see american diplomacy in action, and to see a tangible, if you want to use the wornish world -- deliverable there aren't many deliverables but the opening up of burma -- still ongoing no guarantees of long term success but seem to be on the right -- going in the right direction -- that was quite special to watch as well. and it was done, again, very collaboratively. the united states working along partners in the region, to make this moment happen.
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>> host: you said when you landed in burma, and traveled around, it was the only time the reporters were actually looking outside the window, not because it was unique and interesting, which it probably was, but because there was no blackberry service. >> guest: indeed. we're still addicted to our black berries on this tripes, and you sometimes miss liking around you. you don't have time because you're filing, you're filing your story, you're checking with you've editors, what they need. for some people, checking back home with their family, is a everything okay? i'll be home or not. for my birthday. my daughter's birthday, et cetera. so, you tend to be hunched down on your laptop or looking at your black blackberry, but in burma, internet was very limited. this is a country that -- it's not north korea but it's quite closed and it has been for the last few decades.
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so, it was a great opportunity for us to just sit back and actually look at the beautiful scenery and take in what was unfolding in front of us. >> host: let's take on the broadest element of the book. we discussed it a little bit. let's tackle it head on. i think as we said, this book is really the exploration of american powers in the world. questions of american decline, is its happening, is it not? is it a good thing if it's happening? is it not? what is your conclusion in those really big questions? >> guest: in some ways i'm hoping my readers will draw their own conclusions when they have read all the different chapters and different angles, all the nuances. the book is like cliff notes for an international diplomacy, international affairs course. done in a fun engaging, very colorful way with a lot of pace. i have had people say they were
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exhausted just reading the book because it has this sort of frenetic aspect to it. i think that what i gained from writing this book was a greater understanding of what it is like to be a superpower. it seems easy but it isn't. and i i've head the turkish foreign minister say that to me. he said it seems easy to be the secretary of state. you can do whatever you want. wave your wand and make things happen. actually doesn't work like that and it's important to acknowledge that, recognize it and see how you then behave in accordance to that. whether you're american or whether you're overseas. i find that in my research, i knew on a sort of instinct to all level that i sort of went into the intellectual aspect of it -- i knew the conversation about american decline is cyclical because the headlines
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were there constantly when i was growing up in beirut, particularly after the bombing of the marine baracks. america in retreatment america in decline. big blow to america. it's stunned. 20-30 years later, america is still there in one way or another and the conversation is back to, is america in decline, does -- it ebbs and flows, depending on what else is going on. i think no one can dispute the fact that no -- america is no long their superpower. it has allies who want more of a say. friends like turkey who are rising and want to have a bigger say on the table. and what i found interesting was, clinton's approach to that, and somebody said it's the president's vision as well, of course. don't try to suppress that but work with it. how can you town this to your --
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turn this to your advantage? how can you work with turkey to bring them onboard and work with a common goal? it sounds great and easy. it's not that easy. but i think that clinton, her advisors, i mentioned jake sullivan, who was a deputy chief of staff and has just been apainted to work as national security adviser for the vice president, and then people around the president as well, they saw smart passion collaborative approach to power, as a moe realistic, long-term strategy for maintaining global leadership for the united states. if you don't want american leadership whenever you're sitting, somewhere in the world, if you resent american power, then it's something you have to learn to work with as well, of course. but i think that as clinton told me -- i interviewed her 19 times and she sat down for an
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interview for the book as well. it doesn't work anymore to say you're with us or against us. the united states isn't in that position anymore. if only because of the economy. this isn't an unrivaled economic super power anymore and doesn't have the money to throw around to get done what it wants done. >> host: i saw hints in the book, at least, of you coming to terms, asking questions about some people might want american decline but what does that mean? do you want china to replace centers would that be good for the world? or no power to have a significant say? would that be good? i got the impression that in some ways very personal terms because it's not only this broad question of american power, it's relating to your experience back in beirut and what you learned in the secretary of state that you think that america having a strong presence in the world, the strongest presence, enif you include think it's relatively declined, is a positive. aye am i misreading senate.
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>> guest: the relative decline thing, i think american power is changing. the think the whole notion of power is changing. so i'm not actually a big fan of the word decline beau because i don't think it reflects the reality. i'm not a policymaker, but from where i'm standing as a journalist and as someone who has lived, if you will, on the receiving end of decisions made in washington, i'm not sure that the word "decline" is the right one but it's used in the debate. i thing i found there was no one else who could take on the role at the moment. practically speaking, that the u.s. has. china isn't ready to take on the role of the superpower, and i also discuss how having no one super power or no leading super power can lead to global gridlock, and the -- there have
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been many books written about how, if you don't have one leading super power, it leads to this g-zero world, which is a phrase kinded by ian bremner. look at syria now. because the u.s. is unsure what to do, no one is really quite doing anything. they're doing a little bit of this, and they're arming. the turks want to do this but no one is coming in and taking charge, and that is what happens when the united states doesn't put it foot down sometimes and say this is what i think we should do. but i think that the way they then approach that and how to move forward requires the united states to do it, as i've been saying in a more collaborative way to get people on board, rather than lecture them and bully them into doing something. we may be wrong in a few years we'll see the world changing again. i'm not sure itch don't have a crystal ball.
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but at the moment it looks like it still requires american leadership, even if it's collaborative to get something done. >> host: people saw on the ground, looking to america and you talked about a trip to beirut you took in the summer of 2011, in the midst of the arab spring, and in some cases dictators had been deposed in egypt. >> guest: syria was erupting. >> host: you have two friends, not just one, two friends -- >> guest: i have several but i thought shy condense it to two. >> host: asking basically, -- this was obviously orchestrated by america. they wanted to get rid of the dictator? what is their plan with lebanon. they couldn't imagine a super power like america was pulling the strings cincinnati was an interesting moment that i found very revealing of the continued perception of america as a master puppeteer, pulling all
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the strings. it was ain't inherent contradiction from what my -- an inherent contradiction in what my friends were saying where simultaneously they were praising people power, which brought down mubarak, which had brought down gadhafi, brought down -- and at the same time they were convinced the united states was pulling all the strings. and i don't know how you reconcile those two images. and my explanation is that when chaos erupts around you, you want to find a neat, tidy explanation for why you don't have any control. and that is certainly my experience was like growing up in lebanon. there's war, i can't do anything about it. somebody is responsible, and beyond the militia leaders in my country, somebody must be pulling the strings somewhere. must be america. so provides a neat explanation why you are powerless, it's not
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an accurate explanation, not always. i mean, america is certainly powerful and pulls quite a few strings but doesn't have control over everything. it doesn't have control over the outcome of the decisions that it takes. just look at the iraq war. it was supposed to go according to a certain plan, and it didn't quite work out the way people here had anticipated. so, this contradiction, this constant contradiction -- i don't know whether we will move beyond that, but i think that one thing that clinton did very well as secretary of state in her relentless public diplomacy, was to be very sort of pragmatic in the way she explained to people what the u.s. was doing, and very as a matter of fact about it. she even -- at some point she says we don't have a magic wand we can just wave. of course the united states doesn't have a magic wand.
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everybody knows that on an interesting electric to all level but it was an expectation, and it's a fine line you have to walk, we don't have all the answer us but we're a super power. so it's how you project power but at the same time not raise people's expectations to much. it's a very difficult line to walk. >> host: legacy time. what will hillary clinton's legacy -- what will history look back and say of hillary clinton's time as secretary of state? >> guest: you know, there are her fans and there are her critics and some people in between. let me tell you what i i've heard. we have had her critics who say what has she ahave toed. no peace in the middle east, nothing we iran. the relationship with pakistan is perhaps a little better but still a mess. what has she achieved? that's a very valid point. there are not necessarily pieces of paper she can hold up and say that is the agreement with this
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country, this achievement there you have her fans or the people who like her approach to diploma who will say, what she really did was change the way the u.s. does business around the world and try to apply this concept of smart power, where you in her own word, deploy all the tools in the toolbox of american diplomacy. development of defense and diplomacy, of course, so i think the vast -- that in a way will be part of her legacy but it's very much a work in progress and we have to see whether building on that continues. with the new secretary of state, with the second term of president obama. but i definitely think that it is a valid approach that deserves to be looked at seriously. and i think that is her overriding legacy. she was very much about the big picture. she realized she came in at a time when there was a lot of
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talk about american decline, when america was facing a financial cries and the world was facing a financial crisis,she was struck by the perception that people had of the united states, this country, she loves, believes in american leadership, and people are asking her, what do you stand for? are you still a superpower? everything seems to be going into meltdown in washington. so she re-asserted the perception of america as a global power. repaired some of the damage to alliances that america had around the world, and tried to help improve the perception around the world of the united states, and then just one last point. i have spoken to several foreign ministers for the back because this is very much a layered book with a lot of different perspectives i have woven into the payments, -- the pains -- pages and i was struck by how
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much praise, how effusesive people were in their praise of hillary clinton. whether i wait the turks or the purchase or even the pakistani. imagine that. they had a lot of praise for hillary clinton and the way she approached things from a very human dimension. as a mother. i write in the book how she constantly connects with people on that level, on that human level. and i've had people say she was one of the greatest secretary of states the united states ever had. i think history will tell. you also have to wonder whether the celebrate factor that surrounds her when she walks into the room contributes to that perception? but i think there's definitely something there worth examining. >> host: i guess the president himself claimed she is going to go down in history as one over the greatest secretary of states. it's a hard thing maybe to make a case for without necessarily any signature agreement. you mention in the book she kind
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of chose not to make a signature issue out of any one problem around the world. >> guest: except for women. women is one of the issues that she did take on, and very much made part of the main stream. with every single world leader chev met, she discussed women's issues and put it in very pragmatic terms you. want item i improve your economy? ju have to. deal with the other part of the population. some people roll their eyes and, oh, women's issues. but this is not the urgent question of the day, and she head it very much part of the discussion and she made people realize, well, if you want to move forward, you cannot leave behind half the population. so, -- >> host: i found it interesting that one of the cases you make and set out in the beginning of
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the administration is to repair america's image in the world, and while that was in some cases in europe, there's a pew poll from 2012 in places i found it somewhat striking in pakistan and jordan, down 7%. down in turkey, down in beirut. down in egypt. down from the last year of george w. bush's administration. but i want to ask one last question before we end here and we should just touch on benghazi. how do you think that will affect hillary clinton's less going? a lasting tarnish or something that history doesn't blame her for? >> guest: very briefly, on the polls. i think polls aren't always very accurate reading of what is going on, and no doubt that perceptions have of the united states will go up and down and it's very much dependent on world evens and often driven by a frustration that america isn't helping more so just to make that point.
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with this administration set out to do isn't repair the image but improve the perception and make it possible to have conversations with allies or with friends or countries that you didn't necessarily have a conversation with before. i think benghazi is a moment that will continue to be associated with the secretary's tenure. no escaping that. it happened on her watch. i thing think some questions still remain unare answered, questions she can answer, questions the cia, the pentagon, and the white house have to answer. but the partisan nature of the political debate has blurred the picture a little bit. i think that in the big picture, with information we have now, i don't think it changes her legacy that much but it will definitely be used against her if she decides to run for president or if she reenters political life. but just very briefly. the big picture is that these things, this tragedies,